One of the things you learn/relearn when you’re reevaluating your entire life is–how do I eloquently write this at 3AM–you realize there’s more to life than your own struggles and the struggles of those in your immediate circle. It comes naturally to most of us to be most concerned for ourselves and those in our family, our close friends, etc. We feel bad for the starving children in Africa, but unless one has been there and seen the poverty and drought firsthand, such devastation will always seem a world away. It’s incredibly easy–and convenient–to stay so busy that you’re legitimately wrapped up in your own so-called survival; the plates of work/family/friends/keeping up appearances in general all have to be kept spinning, spinning, spinning to ensure that your life looks as polished as possible to those looking in from the outside. Right?
The best thing about admitting to being an addict is that it almost gives one a free pass to just throw all the spinning plates down on the floor. After all, it’s a very shameful thing to admit you’ve made a mess of your life and need help. The train has to stop so you can get off, the carousel has to come to a halt so you can hop off the merry-go-round of self-destruction you’ve been spinning around on, seemingly completely out of control. I’ve read the same quote twice in the last week, in two very unlikely contexts in articles that I happened upon. I’ve no clue who originated the quote, but it’s absolutely brilliant: “It’s none of my business what’s said about me behind my back.” Being one month re-sober tomorrow, I’m sure a lot has been said about me, this blog, my prerogative to be as open as I’ve been both times about my struggle with alcoholism. If my openness has facilitated even one constructive dialogue about overcoming an addiction of any sort, my work here is done. (Not done on myself, of course, but my point in sharing my story.) The greatest encouragement to me, both this time around and last time, has been when I heard the story of a fellow alcoholic who had the courage to tell their story, whether it was in person or in written form. Reading about Judy Collins drinking vodka from her coffee cup every morning hit home to me at a time when I’d been doing the exact same thing, except from a water bottle. Such is life; we do our best to learn from others’ mistakes, to take solace in the fact that others have already made the same mistakes we’re making, and that we can possibly help those who will make the same mistakes as ourselves and those who came before us. That, too, is never-ending cycle…but a positive one.
The best way I’ve found to think outside myself has been to act on the advice from my pastor, whom I realize I’m quoting for the third time on this blog alone. (I find myself quoting this advice several times a week to anyone who’ll listen, to be honest!) Whenever I feel like drinking–or even just feeling sorry for myself–I should do something good, loving, and/or courageous. I grew up volunteering and was afforded a myriad of opportunities helping others in 4-H, at church, on mission trips, recycling drives, and at the hospice office back home. As soon as I left Valdosta nine years ago, I put volunteering on the back burner. Sure, I “volunteered” for the HIV vaccine programme at Vanderbilt in Nashville, but I was compensated for that. I did no volunteer work to speak of during the five years I lived in the Atlanta suburbs. After seven months of being a Las Vegas resident, I’m finally getting truly plugged in at church and seeking out ways to get out of the pew and help others. I had an absolute ball helping sign people up for the blood drive last Sunday, and I’m doing the same thing later this morning before the actual blood drive next Sunday. God has not only convicted me to start volunteering again, but He even “rigged it” (as only He could) that I have Sundays off these few weeks during the blood drive. (I didn’t ask for these Sundays off, mind you.) How cool is that/how could I really say no when He made it so clear that I needed to put my feelings of anxiety aside and dive in to volunteer? And I’ll be honest; I’m sure me sitting at that table in the fellowship hall signing people up and answering their questions has done much more good for me than it has for the blood drive. But that’s what volunteering is all about; you’re able to get outside your own mind–and your own problems–to help others. Actions speak louder than words, and–in my experience–volunteering speaks louder than sitting in therapy complaining about what’s going on inside my head. The whole point is to think outside of your own mind, to think about the welfare of others, and to act accordingly.
I promise that next week’s blog will not be another meandering confessional, but all this has been on my mind the entire week, so I couldn’t in good faith not share it. I want to end with a look back at my “Six Months Sober” blog from 8.26.11. Ironically (or not), I became re-sober almost a year later to the day. I wanted to celebrate that, instead of the fact that I began drinking again a month after I wrote the above blog entry last year. It’s all about moving forward, but I read the “Six Month Sober” blog the other night for the first time since I became re-sober and it made me wish I’d read it a month after I’d written it. (Confusing enough?!?) Again, maybe it’ll help someone who’s not been helped by reading this current blog entry. With that said, thanks for reading my ramblings! Here’s to many more months and years of being re-sober, fulfilled, and able to think outside myself.